Bulls

Rose reigns supreme as Bulls topple Lin, Knicks

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Rose reigns supreme as Bulls topple Lin, Knicks

Linsanity may have subsided as of late, but as he does when presented with a perceived challenge, Derrick Rose met it head on, leading his short-handed Bulls (35-9) over the Knicks (18-24), 104-99 Monday night at the United Center.

Rose wasnt at his most efficient, but persevered and came up big when his squad needed it the most, while also getting support from his supporting castwhether some of the usual suspects or unlikely candidateswith a penchant for making hustle plays, to hand free-falling New York its sixth straight loss.

Offensive balance appeared to be the Bulls primary objective in the early going, as all five starters were on the board by the midway point of the first quarter. Kyle Korvers (nine points, seven rebounds) outside shooting, Roses (32 points, seven assists, six rebounds) penetration and Joakim Noahs (12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, three blocked shots, two steals) aggressiveness as a scorerthe ex-New Yorker showed no mercy for the team he grew up rooting for, posterizing the Knicks frontline twice in the opening periodoffset Carlos Boozers (15 points, seven rebounds) two quick fouls, which sent him to the pine.

The visitors werent intimidated by the home team, which entered the evening with the leagues top record, especially center Tyson Chandler (13 points, 10 rebounds), who was familiar with the confines from his early days in Chicago, and made a quick, efficient and meaningful impact from the outset. New Yorks point-guard phenomenon Jeremy Lin (15 points, eight assists), had an uneven start to the gamelike most players, he struggled to stay in front of Rose, but made an impressive block on a layup attempt by the leagues reigning MVPbut managed the game well enough to aid the Knicks in taking a 25-23 lead through a quarter of play.

The short-handed hosts continued to trail early in the second stanza, as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was forced to buy time with unconventional lineups, leading to a rough offensive stretch, though swingman Ronnie Brewer (11 points, seven assists, six rebounds) and reserve Taj Gibson (15 points, 13 rebounds) were solid contributors. However, even after reinserting the likes of Rose and Noah back into the contest, the Bulls still had problems scoring the ball, as both Rose and Boozer got off to dreadful starts shooting.

Rose began to assert himself more as a scorernot that it translated into trips to the foul linehelping the home team temporarily regain the lead in a strange affair, which featured technical fouls on both Thibodeau and Knicks head coach Mike DAntoni, as well as a rare first-half appearance by deep reserve and fan favorite Brian Scalabrine. At the intermission, the Bulls narrowly trailed their guests from Gotham, 50-48.

After the break, offense suddenly came much easier for the Bulls, as Boozer, in particular, appeared to have regained his scoring touch, while Rose maintained his aggressive edge, but had more successful results than in the first half. Rosewho gave Bulls fans a brief scare after taking a spill on his tender backby way of fast-break finishes, outside shooting, playmaking, drawing fouls and tough driving finishes, went on to propel a run that led to the hosts seizing control of the contest, eventually obtaining some breathing room as a buffer against the reeling Knicks.

Playing at a faster pace, the Bulls dictated the tempo, while still executing better in their halfcourt offense, as evidenced by Brewer cutting to open areas on the floor and knocking down jumpers, as well as Noah capitalizing on offensive boards made possible by proper spacing.

But New York hung tough behind the star forward duo of Carmelo Anthony (21 points, eight rebounds) and Amare Stoudemire (20 points), both of whom had begun to find their way, drawing within 79-78 heading into the games final frame.

Rookie swingman Jimmy Butler (eight points) sparked the Bulls at the outset of the fourth quarterfirst drawing a charge, then converting a steal into a transition layupenergizing the home crowd, aiding the hosts in again developing a slim cushion. Fellow reserve Gibson did much of the same, beginning with one of his typically thunderous flushes, but then with his relentless work on the offensive glass, which was best exemplified by an out-of-area rebound after a Rose heave to beat the shot clock, resulting in Rose receiving a gorgeous bounce pass from Noah, then throwing down a powerful one-hand dunk in the lane.

As the game entered its stretch run, Rose continued to work his magic, but the Bulls also received timely contributions from the likes of Butler, Noah and Boozerwhether scoring, rebounding, hustle plays or in the rookies case, a vicious follow-up dunkto help the team maintain its narrow winning margin.

Fittingly, following a jump ball forced by a Noah block on Stoudemire, Rose outraced Lin for both a loose ball and a subsequent fast-break layup and while the Knicks made a last-gasp effort that served as at least a wake-up call to the Bulls, it was too little, too late.

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

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USA TODAY

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”